Monday, June 20, 2005

So are the Days of Our Lakers

The NBA Finals were in full stride the last few weeks and of course all the basketball talk has been focused on the Los Angeles Lakers. What’s that? You mean the Lakers didn’t even make the playoffs? Well, that doesn’t mean that we can’t spend the entire Finals discussing Phil, Kobe and, even Shaq. As far as the TV ratings are concerned, it seems most NBA fans have no problem ignoring the NBA Finals. That is what happens when you have two TEAMs involved and not just two superstars with his own set of lackeys going at it, but enough about actual basketball action; let’s get to the real story or soap opera as some would say, The Days of Our Lakers.

Phil Jackson announced that he was ready to continue coaching and was ready to continue his career in LA. Now, why in the world he would decide this I have no idea. I can only imagine that $10 million a year helps, not to mention a beautiful girlfriend whose dad happens to own the team, but didn’t he leave LA with a bad taste in his mouth the last time? In fact, wasn’t he pretty much sent packing by the resident “next Michael Jordan” Kobe Bryant? Kobe Bryant, a player that Phil trashed in a tell all book that came out after his last season in LA. Among other things, Jackson said Bryant was uncoachable and he would never coach him again. Funny how time and straight up cash can heal all wounds.

You have to wonder how this whole thing will work out. If you follow the world of the NBA, then you know that Phil Jackson is perhaps the greatest coach of all time. He has 9 world championships, for the record, he and Red Auerbach are the list when it comes to most titles, both with 9. For a guy who always wins, he doesn’t seem to get much credit for it. I know some of you are already mumbling about how you could win 9 titles with Jordan, Pippen, Kobe and Shaq, and you may be right. One thing that always seems to get under my skin about people who knock Phil Jackson for winning all his titles with great players, is how many championship teams in any sport win with mediocre players? I know this year’s Finals do not have the big superstar matchups that you used to see when Magic, Bird and Jordan were in the game, but is there really any doubt that these are not the two best teams playing in the game right now? I don’t see the LA Clippers winning any titles.

I’m sorry, but you need the best players to win, and even then, it’s not a lock you will win a title. There have been more than a few times the most dominant team did not prevail, while rare, it does happen. I’m not sure if some of you know this, but trying to keep a team of overpayed prima donnas motiviated and happy can be a full time job, and without a doubt, Phil Jackson is the best personality coach in the game. Any man that can deal with Dennis Rodman for as long as he had to obviously knows how to relate to people.

I have good news for the Jackson and Lakers haters though; the best players in the game aren’t on this Lakers team. Sure you have Kobe, who may be the best in the league, but he needs more than a wilting Lamar Odom and a transparent Caron Butler helping him out. No man can win an NBA title alone, a superstar needs at least one other superstar to get to the Finals for a chance. The Lakers need to do some retooling to make the Finals in the next year or two.

Jackson sounds like he is excited to take on this challenge and the way I look at it, even if he fails to win another championship with the Lakers, the blame can always be placed on Kobe’s shoulders. Anything that happens in the NBA that has a negative connotation seems to be Bryant’s fault. While Kobe is not totally undeserving of the knocks he has taken in the last couple of years, he can’t be blamed for everything that happens in the NBA. The big question for Kobe is can he eat crow and admit that maybe he didn’t know what he was doing when he wanted Phil out of Laker Land? It’s obvious Kobe’s season didn’t go as he would have hoped. Shaq advanced to the brink of the Finals, while Kobe was barbecuing with the wife and kid. That had to make Kobe feel a little foolish.

Maybe that foolish feeling helped Kobe realize that he may indeed need a little more help in Lakerland. I would have to think the Phil and Kobe have talked and have at least agreed to be civil and professional for the sake of the team and its goals. While I do not believe that the Lakers are officially a Finals team, I believe with the same team as last year’s plus Phil Jackson, they are a sure playoff team, and with a little help, who knows. The success for the Lakers depends on the compatibility of the Kobe and Phil Dynamic, V. 2.0. I believe it can work, but I will not be surprised to never see these two win a championship together. Now that we have gotten the important NBA news out of the way, let’s get back to the Finals.

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